Restoring an Intimate Splendor

For the past four years, the Palace Museum in Beijing and the World Monuments Fund (WMF) have partnered in the restoration of the Forbidden City’s Lodge of Retirement (see Qianlong’s Private World, ICON, Winter 2003/2004). The two-story lodge has the most exquisite interior of the elaborate eighteenth-century Qianlong Garden, a two-acre private retreat nestled in the northeast corner of the Forbidden City. Built for Emperor Qianlong between 1771 and 1776, the garden has remained virtually unchanged since its initial construction, thanks in no small measure to Qianlong’s decree that the site not be altered by future generations, the eighteenth-century equivalent of a landmarks preservation law. In more recent years, lack of funds and the formidable conservation challenges posed by the garden’s interiors have meant that the site has been left untouched, even as much of the Forbidden City has undergone restoration. Now the Palace Museum and WMF are launching an ambitious program aimed at restoring the entire Qianlong Garden, including all its pavilions, interiors, and spectacular rockeries. The project, slated to last ten years and cost up to $18 million, is perhaps the most comprehensive program in the history of WMF and the largest project ever carried out by the Palace Museum dealing with historic interiors.

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